FINAL: Siena 66, Saint Peter's 53
ALBANY -- One of the worst free throw shooting teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference found its touch from the line this weekend.
That helped Siena assemble a two-game winning streak, after beating Saint Peter's, 66-53, before 6,299 at the Times Union Center this afternoon.
Senior forward O.D. Anosike, a career sub-50 percent shooter from the line, made 12 of 17 against the Peacocks, and the Saints were 27-for-36 (75 percent).
He scored 20 points, and guard Rakeem Brookins scored 18, after having hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer against Canisius on Friday.
A two-game winning streak may not seem like much, but it's precious momentum to a team that was coming off an 11-game losing streak dating back to the middle of November.
"It can really help us in a multitude of ways," Anosike said. "In the standings, we're right back in the mix. Secondly, it helps from a confidence standpoint, with a young team getting two wins at home. At the same time, we cannot get complacent by any means."
Siena led at halftime, 29-20, then the game got close early in the second half, but Siena (4-13 overall, 2-4 MAAC) stayed poised against the foul-prone Peacocks (1-5, 6-10), who committed 27 of them in the game.
Brookins hit a three for a 46-41 lead, the Saints kept grinding away at the free throw line, and finally got some daylight when freshman Rich Audu bit two three-pointers in a span of less than a minute for a 57-47 lead with 3:17 left.
He played 39 minutes off the bench in place of freshman Ryan Oliver, who started in place of Rob Poole (flu) but sprained his knee a minute and a half into the game. It was a reversal of their roles Friday, when Audu started for Poole, but Oliver ended up playing 36 minutes and hitting a big three late in the second half.
"Audu was ready," head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. "It took him awhile to get going, but he had a very good second half. Without those two threes, who knows?"
"I've always been confident, and as a group, we've always been confident, so everything is falling in place the way we want it," Audu said. "I was prepared because I knew Robbie was out. I knew I would have to contribute, we all would have to."
Anosike was able to weather Saint Peter's double teams and get two post defenders, Darius Conley and Markese Tucker, to foul out.
"Anosike was the difference," Saint Peter's head coach John Dunne said. "In the past, we've done better with our late double teams on him. Today, he was aggressive, turned baseline or tried to drive it off the doubles. We played with our hands and not our feet, and put him on the free throw line. He had a banner day from the line."
"I was getting the ball in my sweet spots," Anosike said. "Coach ran some great sets to get me the ball."
Oliver will be evaluated on Monday and may get an MRI for his surgically repaired left knee.
SAINT PETER'S (53)
Jackson 3-9 2-6 8, Conley 1-4 0-0 2, Raymond 4-10 1-3 10, Washington 6-13 0-0 16, Ffrench 1-6 0-0 2, Desport 0-0 0-0 0, Prescott 1-4 0-0 3, Burke 1-2 0-0 2, Tucker 4-5 2-3 10. Totals: 21-53 5-12 53.
Anosike 4-7 12-17 20, Silas 1-2 1-2 3, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Hymes 3-11 4-5 12, Brookins 6-11 5-6 18, Audu 2-7 3-4 9, Leppanen 0-0 0-0 0, Martens 0-1 0-0 0, Bisping 1-1 2-2 4. Totals: 17-40 27-36 66.
Halftime: Siena 29, Saint Peter's 20. Three-point goals: Saint Peter's 6-18 (Raymond 1-2, Washington 4-9, Ffrench 0-2, Prescott 1-4, Burke 0-1); Siena 5-14 (Hymes 2-7, Brookins 1-3, Audu 2-4). Rebounds: Saint Peter's 27 (Raymond 6); Siena 28 (Anosike 7). Assists: Saint Peter's 9 (Ffrench 5); Siena 8 (Anosike, Hymes, Brookins 2). Total fouls: Saint Peter's 27; Siena 17. Attendance: 6,299.
Follow Mike MacAdam on Twitter at @Mike_MacAdam